Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom: Bhutan’s Nominee for Best International Feature Oscar

Writer-director Pawo Choyning Dorji’s Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom was shot mostly in the kingdom of Bhutan, a Buddhist nation of less than 1 million inhabitants in the Eastern Himalayas between India and the Tibet region of China.

Lunana was largely lensed on location in the actual village of that same name, a remote, tiny hamlet. Translated into English, Lunana means: “The Dark Valley.” Dorji’s crew had to shoot using solar power batteries, with no regular electricity, Internet, or cell.

The protagonist, Ugyen (Bhutanese Sherab Dorji making debut), is consigned by the Bhutanese government to teach at the ill-equipped village school. Ugyen resists being posted there, but he is obligated to serve out the fifth and final year of a contractual agreement he has made with the Kingdom, perhaps in exchange for receiving a government provided university education.

Ugyen yearns to emigrate to Australia to be a pop musician, but obliged to fulfill government service, he puts his dream of migrating to a “modern” society aside to make the arduous uphill trek to the faraway Lunana.